My friend told me that to be patient in Spanish is to study the science of peace: Paciencia comes from the Latin pax and Spanish ciencia, peace and science. I did some research and found that this etymology lesson is not quite right—looks like paciencia originally derives from the Latin pati, to suffer or undergo, which morphed over time to the Latin patientia, meaning endurance, tolerance, forbearance—but I like my friend’s version. If science is the intellectual activity of studying the ways of the natural world through observation and experiment and peace is simply freedom from disturbance (thanks, Oxford American!), then to have patience is to mindfully observe the ways of the world through observation and experiment—peacefully. That sounds about right.
I have been challenging myself to have patience with everything lately. In the past eight months since I moved back to New York, I have been constantly tempted to rush things: I’m back! I’m ready for the job, relationship, apartment of which I’ve always dreamed! But I’m constantly receiving reminders to have patience.
Peace is hard to come by when you’re waiting for something. If a child knows there’s something to look forward to later, she’ll anxiously look forward to it all day—the “are we there yet?” syndrome. It’s the same way with adults who have a treat on the horizon. If I know it’s coming, I’d much prefer for it to come now.
This isn’t always the case. I like to savor a good book, tick away the days until a B.B. King concert, and don’t get me started on the delights of foreplay. There’s a time and a place for everything, and this includes patience.
But, for the most part, if I don’t know it’s coming—if I just trust that things come, as life unfolds, because that’s the way life works, and keep showing up and paying attention but not itching about how it’ll all look in the end—then I can just relax, free from antsiness or distress.
Spiritual teachers seem to be really amped up about patience. Yogi Bhajan has a great little ditty on patience in which he booms out, “Patience pays!” in his deep voice. I hear him in my head sometimes when I start to get restive. And my friend and I watched a metaphysical-y video recently from Ra Uru Hu, who basically said, Put a sock in it. You think waiting sucks? How about you get used to it and embrace it for a change.
They’re right, obviously. Take longing and desire—the way things are at the very beginning of a romantic entanglement, that precarious place where both people have expressed interest, a sizable handful of kisses have been exchanged, but the trajectory remains unclear. These fluttery moments could be for the memory mine, to be conjured up from time to time in the future as hazy reminiscence. Or such a thing could be worth waiting for.
If it’s Option A, the former option, then in some ways, wouldn’t we all rather it be dragged out a bit? We love to pine, though we think we hate it. Truth be told, I live for it. I love the pursuit, the dance, the uncertainty and heartache and tumult. If something is given to me on a platter, I’ll take a nibble and leave the rest for the mice. If, on the other hand, something is shoved at me piecemeal in jagged little unpredictable bites, I’ll lie down on the floor with my mouth open, eyes closed, and hope the next bite is something with truffle oil and not, say, rat jerky. But I’ll take that chance, because I so adore the thrill of the chase.
If it’s Option B, all the better. If a romance is going somewhere, what’s the rush?
Only time will tell. Patience is sometimes bolstered by distraction. Take the other day: I was thinking of firing off a text message about something that felt urgent, but instead I got sidetracked by dinner with my friend, which led to a walk around my neighborhood, which led to the discovery of a new kind of macaroon and sitting on a bench in the twilight, sharing a snack and watching the moonrise. That’s the thing with patience, and with life: you never know when you might be surprised with the perfect opportunity to practice the science of peace, there in the twilight, perched on a bench with your friend from college in the last of the lambency of the day.
¡Paciencia y barajar! Keep trying—don’t give up!
You can hear Yogi Bhajan’s patience affirmation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjNBzaNxCwE
And watch Ra Uru Hu’s patience video here: http://www.jovianarchive.com/Media_Library/Videos/14/RaZen_-_Ra_Uru_Hu (and then click “Waiting”)